With the first reported cuckoo calls received and the swifts zooming overhead, I think we can safely say that spring is now officially under way.
On my favourite stretch of riverside walk, the spring flowers are coming into their own. In amongst the carpets of wild garlic and forget-me-nots, some hidden gems are there to be found if you look closely.
One is the strange wood goldilocks, which looks like a buttercup which has been in the wars. It is a straggly plant and the flower heads never seem to have a full compliment of five petals.
At first glance it seems to be a mixture of two plants, but detailed inspection reveals a confusion of palmately lobed basal leaves and whorls of narrow stem leaves on the same plant.
Not the most beautiful of flowers, but certainly one to look out for.
If you look even closer, there is one tiny flower in bloom just now, which is easily missed, but well worth seeking out. It is moschatel or “town hall clock”, so called because of the arrangement of blooms on a single stem.
Well-formed flowers have four flowers arranged like lighthouse beacons to the four points of the compass and a fifth flower pointing directly upwards.
The flowers are pale greeny yellow and only an inch or so in height, so good eyesight is required to find them.
In damp places or by water, the water avens is in full flower at the moment.
It is a native plant and the wild cousin of the geums which we grow in our gardens. The nodding, cup-shaped flowers have dark red sepals and orangey-pink petals surrounding a cluster of yellow stamens; they hang delicately on long, purple stems.
The round leaves are usually found at the base of the stem. The colour combination is so unusual on this flower that it is definitely one of my favourites.
Different from all the previous ones, in that it towers above all else and is not native, is the sweet cicely.
Nonetheless I always look forward to its appearance on my riverside wanderings, as I can never resist crushing a portion of its soft feathery leaf between my fingers and inhaling the lovely aniseed aroma.
A member of the carrot family, it has blousy white flowers and was originally grown as a herb and has since escaped into the wild, where it is now well established.
With the leaf canopy rapidly thickening, it is becoming harder to see any bird activity, so why not cast your eyes downwards and enjoy the feast of wild flowers currently on display in our woodlands.
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